End of 2020

31 Dec

As the year draws to a close I normally look back on how many countries I’ve visited for the first time or how many flights I’ve taken. This year it’s not so many but I have done other things!

I wrote a draft for a novel (still needs to be edited or just thrown away), I had a short story published in an online magazine and I somehow managed to run almost 700km. I’ve also completed some more challenges including reading the Bible from cover to cover.

It’s been a year like no other but I’m still grateful for everything that’s happened, good and bad.

Who knows what 2021 will bring? I’m hoping for health and happiness more than anything else. Enjoy the start to the New Year. I hope the next year brings everything you dream of.

Ciao November

7 Dec

Slightly later than planned here’s a quick note about what I did in November which is actually not a great deal apart from reading and writing.

I’ve been trying to limit social contact with the cases in Switzerland increasing and no measures to stop them rising being brought into effect. So I’ve been mainly at home keeping myself busy with my Masters courses and getting a few things ready for Christmas.

I’ve also not been going to the gym but have been trying to get outside for a run at least three or four times a week. I’m slowly getting more and more addicted to running to just get out of the house.

November was one of the months of the year when I would do the most travelling and it’s kind of hit me that I’ve missed out on something I enjoy so much this year even though I have been productive in other areas.

People ready for Christmas in November!

I don’t really think there’s that much to say otherwise which makes it sound like I’ve not done very much as all. But I have still be progressing with my challenges. I’m hoping almost two will be finished by the end of the year, meaning I can get cracking with some of the others on the list.

Hope you had a great November and are getting ready for Christmas!

So long, October

8 Nov

A little later than planned (sort of like the US election results) here is what I got up to in October – a month that went by so fast I didn’t realise it had ended!

October brought the reintroduction of a recommendation from the government to work from home where possible but, despite an alarming number of cases, we have still avoided lockdown. I’ve also stopped going to the gym (I didn’t feel safe and the classes I went to have been cancelled anyway) and I decided to halt my tennis lessons with a heavy heart just to be on the safe side. Several larger get-togethers in my social circle were also cancelled which was disappointing.

Luckily I’ve had plenty of things to do with my two Masters courses now in full swing. I’ve spent most of my time with a head in a book or watching comedy series which is the best and safest place to be right now. It’s hard work but I’m enjoying it so far and learning lots.

In October I was busy making cards for little people. I made these cards for my niece and nephew for Halloween because they were disappointed not be able to go trick or treating. I’m not sure Halloween cards are even a thing but the card producers are missing a trick if they’re not.

I also went for a few autumnal walks as the weather has been mild and dry. I managed to spot a lot of weird mushrooms on my travels. I’ve never seen anything like these before and they do look good in a photograph.

It was also the time of year to visit Jucker Farm for their amazing pumpkin exhibition. The exhibition seemed to be a bit scaled down this year but the diver was my favourite. I love the colours of autumn and I’m hoping the reds, oranges, browns and yellows are with us for a good while longer!

Autumn Delights

24 Oct

I love autumn. Apart from the rising cases of Covid and my cancelled flights back home. Oh, and the dark mornings.

But apart from that I love the colours, being able to wear huge jumpers and not feeling guilty for spending the whole evening on the sofa.

I also love that it’s time for pumpkins and booted-walks in the forest.

No autumn time is complete without a trip to Jucker Farm, just outside Zurich. They have a pumpkin exhibition each year where they make huge displays from pumpkins. This year the theme was ‘Under the Sea’. This diver was my favourite.

Purchasing a pumpkin isn’t mandatory but it would be rude not to buy at least one. So we came away with a pumpkin and a butternut squash. The butternut squash was made into yummy soup and a butternut squash and feta quiche. I’m still planning what to do with the pumpkin…

On a walk to the forest recently I spotted quite a few funky fungi. So funky that I’m pretty sure they’re not edible! So I just took some photos and left them for a forest creature to nibble on!

Cheese Dreams

20 Oct

This year I eaten my weight in cheese. I’m not exaggerating! And I changed one of my 40 Before 40 travel-related challenges to take part in a cheese masterclass course. Which I completed a few weeks ago!

It was a dream come true (but not one of those weird ones that people blame on cheese). Our host was Sherly, originally from Korea but now fully integrated into Swiss life and a certified Swiss Cheese Sommelier!

The 9 cheeses we sampled

She told us so much about cheese that I never knew, like Swiss cheese is mainly made from raw not pasteurised milk, which knives to use for different cheeses, how to plate different cheeses exactly how a cheese sommelier would and how to describe the distinct flavours of the cheese.

I was surprised about how different all the cheeses were. The hardest thing was deciding which one was my favourite – completely impossible when all of them were amazing.

Plating up like the best of ’em!

Finally, after being filled to the gills with cheese, it was time to learn how to make a Swiss classic – Chäse-Chüechli. Which is also impossible to say sober nevermind after a few drinks. A Chäse-Chüechli is a cheese tart that is made with leftover (I’ve never left any cheese so not sure how this happens) cheese. So simple to make and delicious as part of my lunch the next day.

Simply delicious!

In the past few weeks we’ve been trying new cheeses and, of course, Fondue season has started so cheese is very much still on the agenda and will be for the next few months.

Super September

30 Sep

If you blinked you might have missed September. It’s been a busy month which is why there’s a lack of blog posts this month.

I celebrated my birthday at the start of the month, went on holiday, ended up in quarantine (because my holiday destination was added to risk list while I was away) and started my Masters programmes. It’s been all go – even though I’ve been confined to four walls for 10 days of it.

I’ve also had my flights in October back to the UK cancelled so I think international travel for this year is over. Being quarantined has been ok but I’m not in a massive rush to repeat it.

In September I hit 200 days of being sober. I must admit that being on holiday was a real test of my willpower. Is it even a holiday if you don’t have a refreshing cold drink in the sunshine? Luckily one of our favourite bars had non-alcoholic cocktails so I was happy enough. And the bonus was that they were classed as ‘children’s cocktails’ so they were cheap as well. I actually think virgin Strawberry Daiquiris taste nicer than ones with alcohol in.

A gianr virgin cocktail

Knowing that I would have to quarantine when arriving back in Switzerland I went running almost every day and managed to run about 50km which is more than I was expecting. I enjoy running along the beach anyway but it’s even better when there is virtually no one else around. (The government in Spain are strict about wearing masks etc and hardly any hotels, bars or restuarants were open).

So the first thing I did this morning when I was released from prison, I mean quarantine, was go to the gym. I had a feeling I shouldn’t have started my membership until October because there was always a risk that I might have to isolate. But that’s how life is sometimes. The main thing is I’m healthy and can get back to normal life.

Life didn’t stop for me in quarantine. I have managed to get a lot of writing done and I even helped come up with a concept for a microfilm for a Zurich Film Festival competition for my friends who then went on to film, edit and enter it, while I was stuck at home. All in all, a great month!

October looks like it is going to be busy again: I’m not sure how I managed to do so much travelling in the past. I’m going to be very busy with writing and trying to complete more of my challenges!

I hope you had a great September and are looking forward to autumn!

Adios August

3 Sep

August was a busy month and there were some surprises along the way. Here (slightly later than planned) is what I did last month:

The online drama classes I toook during lockdown finally went live with a socially-distanced audience. I was completely unprepared but I managed to get through it relatively unscathed. I was quite taken aback by some of the comments I received for my monolgue performance and a scene that I wrote which was staged read. It is so incredible to hear something your wrote being brought to life by actors.

I got accepted to not one but two Masters programmes. I didn’t think I’d be accepted to either of them but I found out I had got places on the same day. Incredible stuff. After a lot of consideration I have decided to do both of them. I know it is going to be a lot of hard work but I would be impossible to choose one or the other. I also have a contingency plan if worse comes to worse. Both are writing related and I’m so excited to start. I have already bought lots of new stationery!

I found out one of my short stories will be published later this year around November. It’s given me confidence that what I write is publishable and I have been writing more as a result. My problem has always been that I don’t finish writing that I start so I will be finishing projects I’ve started in September before my courses start and I forget about them completely.

I completed the bonus round of my online book challenge group which means I read 20 books in two months. I read so much but my to read pile just keeps getting higher and higher.

Speaking of challenges I finished another challenge from my 40 Before 40 list. Here is the link if you missed it.

I also finished my 12 week transformation programme at the gym. I did two weeks, had a two-month break because of lockdown and then completed the last ten weeks this week. It’s made such a difference, even though the early mornings are a killer. I’m hoping to get back to more running as well as continue with some of the classes that I’ve enjoyed. This week I’m having a break though because I feel like I deserve it.

September will be busy. It’s my birthday and I will be going on holiday and starting my Masters courses! It’s going to be another busy month but I’m ready for it!

Hope you have a great September!

Homemade

30 Aug

The weather has taken a turn for the worse. I’m sort of glad because it was far too hot but now it’s just turned into torrential rain resulting with me being completely reluctant to leave the house for anything that isn’t a life-or-death situation.

As a result I have spent the weekend reading (yay!), watching films (yay!) and completing one more of my 40 Before 40 Challenges (yay!). This weekend I’ve made jam!

I’ve always wanted to have a go at making jam but I was scared to. Something that most people normally buy in a supermarket must be very difficult to make, right? WRONG! I found it suprisingly easy.

I didn’t pick my own fruit because a) a bit late in the fruit picking season to go and pick them myself, b) it’s been raining – a lot, and c) if I did go and pick them myself I would have spent most of time eating them rather than just picking them and putting them in the basket. As there was an offer on in the supermarket and I love them, I made blueberry jam.

My first attempt at blueberry jam

As I say it was relatively easy and you don’t need many ingredients. I used blueberries, sugar, lemon juice and plant-based pectin which makes my jam vegan! You basically put everything in a pot and boil it! I was always so impressed by the people on GBBO making their own jam and now that magic is gone.

We had it for breakfast and it’s very tasty and not too sweet!

I also decided to make lemon curd – another favourite on GBBO that I’ve always been amazed by. It is a bit tricker than making jam because the eggs can split but it turned out great. My wrist wasn’t too happy at the constant stirring though! I actually think this tastes better than what you can buy in the shops but as you can’t buy this in the shops here I guess that’s not so impressive!

Homemade Lemon Curd

I now have enough jam and lemon curd to last for a few months and I won’t hesitate to make them again on a rainy afternoon!

Challenge Update

21 Aug

It’s shortly coming up to 3 years since I started my 40 Before 40 challenge so it’s time for a round-up and also to make some changes.

It was never my intention to make any changes to the list but (surprise, surprise) because of COVID-19 I’ve decided to take the travel related items off the list and replace them with other challenges. My aim is still to complete the travel related items but not within the timeframe.

So from now on the following five challenges have changed to:

2. Complete a Masters programme

13. Self publish an ebook of flash fiction

18. Take part in a Cheese Masterclass with a Cheese Sommelier

27. Read an average of a book a week

36. Learn how to make jam

I realise there is a huge difference between making jam and travelling business class on a long haul flight but needs must! I’d rather have something ‘easier’ to complete than not get all the challenges completed. And the challenge I have replaced will still say on my bucket list so it’s not like they will disappear forever!

With two years to go, I have completed 22 of the challenges, with 9 of these being completed in the last year. I also have quite a few challenges in progress like going alcohol-free for a year (almost 200 days done!), I’m still working my way through the film list and I will be starting a Masters in September all being well, so it’s convenient that that is now on the list.

So I am hopefully still on track to complete all the challenges in 2 years time!

Time to float

18 Aug

It’s been perfect weather to float down the river in a blow-up dingy! And by that I mean it’s been so hot, the only way you can cool down is by getting down to a body of water and immersing yourself in water.

I did this last week with a friend. I don’t think I even went once last year so it was long overdue.

The hardest part is always blowing the boat up. Luckily we have two of us to share this task. We were ready to go in no time.

Pumped up and ready to go!

The best part about floating during the week is that the river is far less crowded. Go on a weekend and there are so many boats and inflatables that it feels a bit like the Wacky Races on water. It was so quiet and relaxing.

I also realised that part of the river we floated down is the same part of the river where I used to go running during my lunchtime – this activity is on hold thanks to COVID as I’m now running around where I live rather than the office.

View of the city from the river

Last time I did this activity, it felt like it lasted forever but it seemed over far too quickly this time. I wanted to go back to the start and do it all again. Of course, I realised when I got home that I had got sunburnt despite putting plenty of sun protection on. Luckily it wasn’t too bad but I definitely have a mark where my t-shirt has been.

I am hoping to get another chance for a float this season but time isn’t on my side with a few trips planned for my days off and tennis lessons about to start up again so I am keeping my fingers crossed that the weather stay good until September!